Ollie Pope scored a strokeful 81 on Day Two of the fourth Test against India at the Oval on Friday to help England take a 99-run lead in the first innings. It was the first Test of the series for the middle-order batsman, and the first Test of his career at his home ground, so he was naturally pleased to make a mark with the bat.
Pope had a string of low scores coming into this game. After a fairly successful 2020 – 481 runs in 14 innings at 43.72 (and a highest of 135 n.o.) – his form dipped this year: this was his first half-century in 13 innings.
“Obviously, would have liked to get a hundred today. You see the hunger among the guys who have been at the top. I want to do everything in my power to get right to the top of my game,” Pope said at a virtual press conference at the end of the day’s play.
“I’m only 23 but I’ve got some good experience in the Test arena (20 Tests), so hopefully, I can build on today and start a good run again,” he said.
Having been in and out of the side since making his debut in November 2018, Pope felt his Test career with England had been a learning curve.
“It’s been a stop-start career so far. I made my debut back probably nearly four years ago; I’ve been in and out and had shoulder operations. It’s been a learning curve, to be honest. Reminds you to do everything possible to stay in the park firstly, for the last thing you want to do is give someone your spot. I’ve learned a lot about how to deal with the noise, off the pitch kind of thing (sic). I want to be as confident in my game as I can,” he said.
Pope said he had made a slight change in his batting stance to try and find success against the Indian fast bowling attack.
“I have watched how Rooty [Joe Root] has played in this series, how he’s gone about it. Had good conversations with coaches and senior players; I think I recognised that the Indian attack is very skilled. Their main course is to attack that knee roll.
HIGHLIGHTS – ENGLAND v INDIA, 4th TEST, DAY 2
“As a batter, you’re going to get out somehow whether the team is attacking the fifth stump as much as they can or whether they attack the knee roll as much as they can. I recognised that you’ve got to adapt your game accordingly. That’s what I’ve done; probably decided a couple of weeks ago that that was how I was going to go about my business,” he said.
Pope’s innings flourished under helpful conditions – he said the pitch had flattened out a bit after the first day, and the outfield had become quicker as well. His team may have to toil harder than in the first innings to dismiss India’s batsmen, he felt.
“I think the pace of the game will change a little bit now, as we saw this afternoon. It is a good pitch now; the outfield has quickened up as well, so we might have to toil a bit longer for our wickets. But if we can just hang in there as long as we can, we’ll get our rewards,” he said.
Interrupted by ‘Jarvo69’
He faced an unfamiliar ‘bowler’ during his innings when a pitch invader – Daniel Jarvis, aka ‘Jarvo69’ – ran onto the pitch and pretended to bowl to him. It was the third time Jarvis had invaded the field this series.
Pope said it was important during interruptions like these to sustain one’s focus as a batsman.
“Jarvo has made a few appearances this series. I don’t know how he’s got on the pitch again, to be honest; I try to stay in my bubble and don’t let it affect me. Just block it out.
“He just stops the play for five minutes every time he comes on.
“You’ve just got to try and block it out. The art of batting is to switch on and off – you try to switch off in between. Whatever happens between balls, I try to get into a good place for that next ball,” he said.